Psoriasis affects over 7.5 million Americans. We think of psoriasis as being a skin disease because of the rash. Actually, psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, the most prevalent one in the United States, which is why new drugs to treat it are aimed at blocking those cells responsible for the skin inflammation. Biologics have been around for over a hundred years but only in the last ten years have been used to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
There are five types of psoriasis but plaque psoriasis is the most common. Plaque psoriasis appears as a thick red scaly rash with a whitish coating of old cells that can erupt on many surfaces of the body. People who suffer from psoriasis face incredible embarrassment as they are unable to hide their condition from those around them. Psoriasis is not contagious but can be passed along in families and currently, there is no cure. No one knows what causes psoriasis but there are certain triggers that can aggravate it such as: stress, an injury to the skin like sunburn and certain medications.
Most of the first-line therapies for psoriasis treat the mild symptoms but when the disease is more severe, systemic drugs are used to affect the body’s immune system. Traditional systemic drugs can have serious side effects that may also affect other organs. Biologics are different because they are able to block the activation of specific immune cells called T-cells or the chemical messengers that are involved in creating the inflammation. Biologics are also able to block a chemical call TNF-alpha that cause other cells to release proteins that add to the inflammation.
Currently, there are five biologic drugs that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of psoriasis:
Some of these biologics are also used to treat other immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. One of the drawbacks to biologic therapy is that these drugs can only be given by injection or by intravenous infusion which can take up to two hours to receive.